Kenya declares Yellow Fever outbreak after three die in Isiolo

Acting Health DG, Dr Patrick Amoth

What you need to know:

  • Dr Amoth said the first case was detected on January 12 and since then, 15 suspected cases have been identified.
  • Among the patients, the youngest is an 11-year-old while the oldest is 65.
  • Young male adults make up the majority of those infected.

Kenya has declared a Yellow Fever outbreak after Isiolo County reported new cases, a statement by the Ministry of Health shows.

Three people have died while more than 20 people contracted the Yellow Fever virus in Imerti and Garbatulla Sub-counties in the last one month, the notice signed by acting Director-General of Health, Dr Patrick Amoth, said. 

In a March 5 report, the Ministry noted that out of the six samples that were tested by the Kenya Medical Research Institute, three of them turned positive and an alert has since been sent to all the 47 counties. Counties bordering Isiolo have been placed in the high-risk bracket.

Dr Amoth said the first case was detected on January 12 and since then, 15 suspected cases have been identified presenting with symptoms including headache, fever, jaundice, muscles and joint pains. 

Among the patients, the youngest is an 11-year-old while the oldest is 65. Young male adults make up the majority of those infected.

"This is therefore to raise an alarm in all the 47 counties more so the high-risk counties including Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Meru, Samburu, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot and Turkana," the statement says. 

"A small proportion of patients who contract the virus develop severe symptoms and approximately half die within 7 to 10 days."

The Ministry is mobilising resources to deploy a rapid response team to Isiolo and neighbouring countries. 

Isiolo Health Executive Wario Galma said a surveillance team and public health officers have been dispatched to collect samples and determine how widespread the virus is. 

It is suspected that the reported cases are sylvatic, meaning the infection was transmitted to humans by mosquitoes in the wild.

“We are prepared and from the surveillance report, we will be able to train staff on how to handle suspected cases and curb spread,” Mr Wario said, adding that vaccines available in the county aren't enough to handle an emergency.

“We don't stock them since Kenya has only been vaccinating travelers. But due to this emergency...we expect more to be purchased,” he said.

Initial symptoms of the illness include sudden onset of fever, severe headaches, general body aches, nausea, vomiting, weakness and fatigue. More severe symptoms include high fever, yellow skin (jaundice), bleeding, shock, and organ failure.

Yellow fever is diagnosed based on laboratory testing, a person’s symptoms and travel history. There is no cure for the disease, only vaccines. 

Dr Amoth said that once infected, the patient should rest, drink fluids, use pain relievers and other medication to relieve aches and fever.

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